NEW DELHI: Procedural errors cannot be the sole ground for quashing conviction or ordering retrial in a criminal case unless there was manifest miscarriage of justice to the accused, the Supreme Court has ruled.
“Decidedly, there has to be a fair trial and no miscarriage of justice and under no circumstances, prejudice should be caused to the accused but, every procedural lapse or every interdict that has been acceded to and not objected at the appropriate stage would not get the trial dented or make it unfair,” said a three-judge bench headed by Mr Justice Dalveer Bhandari.
The bench gave the ruling while dismissing an appeal by some murder convicts – Rattiram, Satyanarayan and others, belonging to Madhya Pradesh.
The convicts had come to the apex court challenging the life sentence imposed on them by a Madhya Pradesh sessions Court in August 1996 and upheld by the state high court for murdering a dalit.
“Treating it (conviction) to be unfair would amount to an undesirable state of pink of perfection in procedure. An absolute apple pie order in carrying out the adjective law, would only be sound and fury signifying nothing,” the apex court said, dismissing the appeal in a case under Section 302 of the IPC and various other provisions of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
After their conviction, the convicts had sought a re-trial on the ground that the case as required under Section 193 CrPC was not initially committed by a magistrate to the sessions court as the latter had directly taken cognisance of the charge sheet filed by police.
The apex court bench, which also included Mr Justice T S Thakur and Mr Justice Dipak Mishra, said “the seminal issue is whether protection given to the accused under the law has been jeopardised as a consequence of which there has been failure of justice or causation of any prejudice.”
The bench pointed out that “the concept of fair trial and conception of miscarriage of justice are not in the realm of abstraction and not operate in a vacuum.”
“They are to be concretely established on the bedrock of facts and not to be deduced from procedural lapse or an interdict like commitment as enshrined under Section 193 of the Code for taking cognisance under the Act,” it said.
Underlining the risk of ordering retrial on grounds of minor violations of procedures, the bench said, “It would have the effect to potentiality cause a dent in the criminal justice delivery system and justice would eventually become illusory like a mirage.”
The apex court said judged from these angles the trial of the convicts was not vitiated in any manner.
“It does not vitiate the trial and on the said ground alone, the conviction cannot be set aside or there cannot be a direction of retrial,” the bench added.